30 Tasting Notes
Aging has done beautiful things for this oolong. I picked this up at the Philly Coffee & Tea Fest a couple of weeks ago and I am so glad I did. This tea deserves a long, luxurious session with a gaiwan. I got eight good steeps out of it, but the leaves were still glossy and tight, so I suspect I could have had more if I’d increased the water temperature a bit. It started out almost marine (fish? seaweed?), then moved quickly into increasing sweetness with undertones of apricot but with a solid backbone. The oolong floweriness was definitely there, but clearly mellowed with time. This one has been around since 2005; it’ll be interesting to see how long it lasts. I’ll probably run out of it before it runs out of deliciousness.
Flavors: Apricot, Fishy, Seaweed, Sweet, Toasty
This is a tale of two teas, or at least two different approaches to the same tea. As an experiment, I tried Morning Sun twice on the same day, both times following Mandala’s recommendations, but once in a gaiwan and once Western style. The dry leaves, BTW are just lovely – an attractive mix of gold and dark curls and with a smokier tang than I expected. The gaiwan version (1 tsp, 208°, rinse/1’/2’/4’) was smoky but not too much with a slight sweetness at the back. Predictably, it faded by the third steep. The Western version (~2 tsp, 208°, 3½’) was the same but more so. I found this brew richer, softer, and with the smoke perfectly balanced with the sweet undertone. When I have the leisure to do so, I usually prefer gaiwan drinking. This one is a solid mugful.
Flavors: Honey, Smoke, Smooth, Sweet
The wet leaves are almost like a mild milk oolong and the leaves are a lovely bright green. At first, the taste has less going for it than the odor, but as it has cooled, it has taken on more distinctive oolong-ness: vegetal and also a bit fishy. It’s not knocking my socks off – the second infusion is a bit less so than the first. For this first time out, I followed David’s suggestion of 1 ¼ tsp in 8 oz at 185. I think next time I’ll try it in the gaiwan and see if that gives it more oomph.
Flavors: Fishy, Vegetal
This is one that I picked up last weekend at the Philly Coffee & Tea Expo. Per ounce, it was probably the most expensive item I got and I’m so glad I did. The dry leaves are lovely tight spirals with a delicious cocoa odor. As advertised, the flavor has all of the nutty, chocolatey notes of a good keemun, but softer. This one doesn’t hit me over the head and say, “Yo – keemun here – deal with it!” Rather, it offers warmth and comfort and relaxation. The website says they only have five left of this limited edition so I’m pleased to have this on in stock. BTW, second steep: same but less so. It’s a bit thin on the second steep. I think I’ll stick to one.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Nutty
Came home after a long day and needed some comfort tea, and boy-howdy did this ever hit the spot. I did four steeps in the gaiwan. The first (20s) was all honey honey honey honey. The second (30s) was darker honey in color and somewhat so in flavor. By the third (60s), the beautiful leaves were fully unfurled and the flavor had taken on apricot notes or maybe cooking sweet potatoes. Oh, and honey too. My final steep (90s) was softer and subtler, but even my beloved sniffed the leaves and immediately said, “honey” (and she wasn’t referring to me).
I don’t see this on the Butiki site, which makes me think their stock is gone and I won’t be able to order more before Stacy closes the doors. That makes me sad. Both not having the tea and the doors closing. I’ll just enjoy what I’ve got and hope I can find something comparable someday.
Flavors: Honey, Sweet Potatoes
This is a nice “combo” tea. It’s all fully oxidized darjeeling, but some of the leaves have been left green to peek through in both the appearance and the flavor. It’s nicely dry and snappy, a solid afternoon pick-me-up. I think this would be a good one to feed to friends who are only familiar with tea-bag tea so they can start to understand the wonders of loose leaf.
This is one where my experience of the tea and the description don’t match at all, but I still really like it. Upton describes this with words like buttery, winey, and walnut. Nope, didn’t pick up on any of that. To me, it was classic smooth oolong with a lovely subtle sweetness. Not hit-you-over-the-head honey or shocking sugar, more like the sweetness you’d get from sucking on clover blossoms. I’ll be drinking this when curled up on my couch on weekend mornings.
I’m not a huge fan of jasmine, but wowser, is this a good tea! Most jasmine teas overdo it – I feel like I’m being assaulted with the flavor. This one is a solid green tea with jasmine very much present, but not overwhelming. I did six steeps in my gaiwan 20/15/20/30/45/90 at 180° and was not disappointed by any of them, though it was pretty faded by the last go-round. My wife and daughter really like jasmine pearls, so I’ll be interested to see how they react to this one.
Flavors: Jasmine, Nutty
This is one I picked up in Green Terrace’s sale a few weeks ago. I don’t drink milk oolong too often, but sometimes that distinctive profile just hits the spot. This one hits it, but not quite a bull’s eye.
I did 5 steeps in a gaiwan at 93°C as GT suggested. After the first 30s steep, as expected, the leaves were still tight and the taste pretty light. There was a gentle version of the classic milk oolong scent, but no sweetness and slightly vegetal. The next 30s steep gave me a stronger scent, somewhat thicker liquor, and a bit sweeter, but still nothing to write home about. After a 45s steep, it came into its own, with a nice freshness to the flavor. Steep 4 didn’t change character, but was steadily pleasant. I tried one more steep at 60s, but my tongue may have been tasted out by then because the milkiness seemed pretty faded. To be fair, I was also starting to make salsa, though I didn’t sample that until after my final sips lest the jalapenos toast my taste buds.
All in all, a reasonable milk oolong and I don’t regret buying it. Next time, I’ll start with more leaves and see if that raises the profile.
Flavors: Milk, Sweet, Vegetal
It’s rare that this happens, but this one was kind of disappointing. Not bad tea, by any means; it just didn’t do much for me. I did three steeps in a gaiwan for 30/60/90. There was some green tea sweetness at the outset, but it dropped off pretty quickly and I was left wanting more flavor and longevity. I think it’s got potential though, so I’ll try it next time with more leaves and see how that changes the equation.